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Jon Belmonte, Eric Foyil, and Chris Maggard discuss how Sterling Auto implemented digital processes in the shop and how his staff embraced it.

Episode Transcript

*This transcript was generated with Artificial Intelligence. Errors may occur. If you identify an error please contact us at [email protected]

Jon Belmonte (00:06):
Great. Hello, this is Jon Belmonte from AutoVitals. I’m joined by Chris Maggard. Also heads up customer success training and lots of other important things here at AutoVitals. Today we are joined by Eric Foyle with Sterling Auto Repair. The topic of the day is driving adoption of digital tools by your staff to help drive shop success. As we know, there’s lots of different ways that shops and shop owners are driving adoption of digital vehicle inspections of workflow of CRM, the tools in the end, I think shops all agree and employees all agree these tools are beneficial for efficiency and growth, customer satisfaction, retention, but sometimes it takes a little bit longer for some shops to drive adoption amongst their team members. So I was hoping maybe Eric, you could tell us a little bit more about your onboarding experience here and really how you got your technicians and your service advisors to see the value and adopt the tools as they were rolled out.
Eric Foyle (01:27):
Okay, sure. Yeah, we kind of first started with obviously just creating our own inspection and got them to participate in that process of what we’re going to be looking at and what our actions are to choose from our findings and whatnot. And then once we kind of got everybody to start doing the inspections and learning how to do ’em, then we struggled. Their first hurdle was, okay, we need to get the right amount of photos and the right type of photos. So we first started by implementing a picture policy, which outlined certain photos that were required for each inspection. So we at least had those and then any photos of anything that they found wrong or would need future attention. So we started implementing that and that kind of got us going. And then I think the big thing that really got the buy-in was we had some team meetings and in one of those meetings we had a big monitor set up and we used the business control panel for the shop meeting and using that tool I was able to show them when certain numbers are up, like motorist research time and inspection rate, things like that.
The A RO would typically follow those numbers. So when you do these things, then your a RO and your car count and your hours per RO also tend to follow that trend. So once they saw that, they could see the power of what we’re doing, how it can be used for the customer, and then my service riders would back that up because they would simply let the technicians know, whatever you guys put on the inspection, it sells itself. We don’t have to really struggle at it to sell it. They see it, they call us and just want to take care of it. So now the technician knows, okay, well if I spend the time to do this, they’re going to sell this work. I’m not wasting my time doing all this inspections and doing all this stuff and then not getting the job. So they really liked that.
And then so from there, what we did is I kind of sit down, it took a while, this is over a course of time, but working with Chris and stuff on the program, I really started to use the insights and the multis shop stuff. So we had another shop meeting with my team here and I showed them the multis shop on the business control panel, and we looked at comparable shops to our size and we looked and we talked about what they’re doing. Okay, here’s their metrics, here’s their KPIs, here’s ours. And most technicians are pretty competitive in today’s world mean, so they don’t want to be the top shop. They want to have the bigger numbers. So we kind of basically use that data to set the bar for ourselves. So can we get here to what this shop’s doing because look at what they’re doing in revenue and then if we make this kind of money, then this is what we’re going to make for ourselves.
So that’s what kind of set up the guidelines for it, I would say. So then what I did from there was using the insights, I picked out certain KPIs that I feel that are somewhat in control between the service rider and the technicians, the ones that they have control over. So some examples would be like inspection rate. They totally have control. Both of them have control of the inspection rate. The service rider has got to get it on the ticket, got to make sure it gets done. The technicians got to actually do it. So we have the inspection rate and we set a goal for that. Did you want to go into my goal numbers or Yeah, what were you thinking? That’d be great. Okay, so inspection rate, we would set the bar for, we want 80 plus percent inspection rate, and so we would go over that together and then we would set up the average number of pictures per RO and our target was 15 to 20 pictures per ro.
We got to have some photos on there to have something to work with for the customer to see to engage with. So we got to have a certain amount of those. Also, we would track, we would keep an eye on the number of recommended jobs that came from the inspections and our goal was right around seven or eight recommended jobs per inspection. They could be something very minor or something as an air filter or something more major, or it could be you need to check this out or diagnose this problem. Then we would look at the percentage of edited photos and I think can attest to this, when we first started doing this, we were like, I don’t 2%, something like that. And then we got this going and I talked to my service writers and the next thing you know we’re above 50%, and once they started doing it, they saw, again, customers were really interested in fixing what they had highlighted because when it’s not highlighted, they just kind of look at the picture and don’t know what they’re looking at.
That really helped us out tremendously On the photos, we’d also look at the inspection sent rate. I would tell I bring this up in the shop meeting because if you’re asking the technician to do a good inspection and do a good job, then the service writer better dang, well send it because otherwise the technician’s not going to want to do it if the service writer’s not going to send it to the customer. So we look at that and so now the technicians are kind of holding, they’re each holding each other accountable. The service writer is holding the technician accountable to do the inspection and now the technician’s holding the service rider accountable to edit the photos and send the inspection because they get to see what their matrix is, what their numbers are too. In our next meeting, they would get to see what they’re doing and then we would look at the average research time for the motorists and we’ve grown that number.
I mean, huge bounds mean we were I think under a hundred seconds before and now I think three to 500 is where we try to stay right now. Then another couple of things I look at was technician proficiency. I feel that one’s the most important because the efficiency and productivity, yes, they’re important, but I found those two numbers can be manipulated by the technician a little bit. One way or the other, they can manipulate either one of those numbers, but no matter what they do, the proficiency is kind of like the bottom line. That’s where it all comes together. That’s the number I really focus on and I try to
Jon Belmonte (07:49):
Define how do think and how do your folks think about technician proficiency?
Eric Foyle (07:56):
That’s what we kind look at because the efficiency obviously is how long it takes them to do that particular job. The job pays four hours and they do it in four hours. It’s a hundred percent efficient. Well, the technicians don’t really have trouble with that number at all, and that’s the number that they can kind of manipulate because if they don’t stay clocked onto the job the entire time, then that number is not really that accurate. Productivity obviously is a number of how much time in the day that they’ve spent clocked in the vehicles versus being on no activity or doing something else. So the proficiency really works for us. That basically tells us total doesn’t matter what they were doing with their tablet, that’s the bottom line number. If you’re 80%, I mean you got 80% work done today versus how long you were on the clock.
So that one doesn’t lie. The other ones can be kind of manipulated is what I’ve found. I still look at ’em because if we have someone that’s really low productivity numbers, we’re going to talk to ’em like, okay, what’s going on? Are you not getting enough work? Or why are we so much downtime? So we still use those numbers, but we kind of score off of the proficiency number, which is my favorite, and we also look at the service rider efficiency to make sure that they’re actually selling enough build hours to these guys to hit their goals as well. So it’s all part of it. It kind of makes it a team. So we bring all these stats together on shop meetings and kind of go over ’em together, and I think that’s what really helped us out.
Jon Belmonte (09:28):
And what’s in it for the employees? Is it obviously you mentioned a level of competition or just pride, there’s also a matter of just good performance. I mean, are there other incentives or motivators, things around compensation or how else do team members or employees benefit from this?
Eric Foyle (09:50):
Yeah, okay. So both of them, my service writers, they obviously get paid on sales commission, so they’re already benefiting from the additional sales, which is part of their normal plan. The technicians, they get productivity bonuses based on their hours, but what I did to draw the team together is I came up with a little bit of a bonus plan just on these KPIs from AutoVitals that we talk about in our meetings, and I call ’em the plus minus plan. So what I would do is I would pick four KPIs, let’s say four that relate to the technician and four that relate to the service rider. Some of ’em are a little bit more in line with what they do, and so you put a price on each of the four. Let’s just say for round numbers, we are going to do 500 per KPI.
So we set a goal for these four KPIs, and if they hit that goal in the month, then they get 500 per KPI. So that’s $2,000, but I have it as a plus minus. So basically the way I look at it, some of these KPIs are just them doing their job. Some of them they have to actually work at to earn it. So I figure, okay, so we’re going to factor all this in here. What I did is the plus minus, let’s say they hit two of their KPIs, but the other two they didn’t. Well, you would get the plus for the two and then the minus for the two, so you would basically get nothing. I mean, you’re doing 50% of what we’re trying to do here. You’re doing 50% and maybe that 50% was kind of a give me because maybe the KPIs that you did do weren’t really result of your extra effort. They were just okay, yeah, they all got sent, but you didn’t do the editing part. So basically you have four categories and if you hit the goal on all four, you could get $2,000. If you only do half the work and only let two of ’em go, then you’re going to get nothing. So if you hit three, you would end up with $1,500 minus the 500 for the one you didn’t do, so you’d get a thousand, so you could actually get zero thousand or 2000 on that example, do the same thing for the technicians.
Jon Belmonte (12:00):
Hey, Eric,
Eric Foyle (12:01):
Kind of motivate them to do that.
Chris Maggard (12:04):
Question for you, Eric, when you’re using the BCP for your tracking and reporting, I know we’ve dug into that pretty deeply. How frequently were you reviewing that with your employees and also did they have access to review and monitor that on their own to keep track of where they were for their bonus or their compensation plan?
Eric Foyle (12:22):
They did not. I mean, I guess the service riders technically could have access because they had it on their workstation, but we were doing trying to do weekly meetings. Sometimes it would be biweekly, but we would be tracking it along the way. We were on a groove there for a while. We were doing weekly meetings and we would kind of let them know where they sit, and so this was not them tracking their hours and things like that. This was an extra thing for really digging in and actually focusing on the AutoVitals program, using the tablet, doing the work and editing the stuff and making sure the customers get it, and all those numbers kind of just fall into place themselves once they actually use it.
Chris Maggard (13:06):
Eric Foyle (13:06):
This was motivation to use it, and most of the time they would get all four or they might hit three of them and not get one, so then there would just be that one deduction. They would still get basically half of it. So they were pretty good with that. It was all extra above and beyond what they were already doing, and they’re basically getting paid extra for basically doing their job
Jon Belmonte (13:24):
And for doing stuff that’s going to benefit them other ways
Eric Foyle (13:28):
Jon Belmonte (13:29):
And team and Les Mayhem and everything.
Eric Foyle (13:33):
They saw how much more organized it was and how customers would call in or customers would save that inspection and come back a month later and say, I want to do all of it. And so they started seeing how powerful it was. I mean, the technicians included because they would get the job back and go, oh man, I remember I checked that out a month ago. Yeah, they want to do it all.
Jon Belmonte (13:55):
Yeah, that’s great. Either Chris or Eric, most shops have at least one or two folks who dig their heels in or initially are very skeptical, maybe think of themselves as old school, whether they are or not. Is that something that you ran into here, Chris? Did you see that as you guys were working together or Eric, I mean, is that something you recall and how’d you work through that?
Chris Maggard (14:23):
Eric, grab that one. I mean, maybe you can talk about, and I don’t know how much nil your parts gentleman, how frequent and what was he doing with the program and was it benefiting him?
Eric Foyle (14:37):
It does benefit him. The parts position is kind of a weird odd man out one as far as automatic goes, but he does use the TVP on a daily basis, so it does benefit him because he can see really quickly who’s working on what job, and we use the special markers for him to identify where he put the parts for each job. So he’ll let us know, let the technician know that the parts are in stock and they’re in this particular bin number or location. So he does all that in the TVP, so he is in there all the time, and it does help him a lot. When it comes time to estimate parts, he may have a question, is that a four door or a two door or whatever it is, he can look at the inspection and he can pull up the inspection and see the car. And there’s a lot of our picture policies have information in the photos that he uses all the time. When they recommend stuff, he’ll go the inspection and see the picture of it and go, okay, well, it’s obviously a four wheel drive and it’s four door and it’s this and that. So it works pretty good for him as well.
Jon Belmonte (15:38):
Great. Remind me which point of sale you use?
Eric Foyle (15:44):
We use Mitchell currently.
Jon Belmonte (15:47):
And how’s the integration with Mitchell and AutoVitals Works well and gives you everything that you need.
Eric Foyle (15:56):
Yeah, we haven’t had any trouble with the integration part of it at all. I mean, we’ve kind of hit the ceiling a little bit on some of Mitchell’s limitations on what they could do as far as reporting, but I mean, we have a lot of reporting and AutoVitals to fall back on, so that helps us out a lot. Integration’s. Good.
Jon Belmonte (16:12):
Good. Yeah, that’s good. In the
Eric Foyle (16:13):
Very beginning, I had a couple technicians and I had one of ’em. I thought, okay, this guy is going to give me the most trouble with wanting to go digital, and he kind of surprised me. He was the one that was the most on board. It was really bizarre. But yeah, so you never know who’s going to be on board with it or not. But basically I’ve only had, I want to say, and we’ve been doing this since I think 2015, so seven years now. I’ve only had a couple guys and they were new hires that I hired and I explained the process to ’em in the beginning, and when they got on board during their probationary period, it wasn’t for them, so they just couldn’t do it. But as far as everybody that’s been here and was here originally, I mean, they all adapted to it and they saw the benefits. They liked the fact that they’re not looking for these lost repair orders and trying to track these things down. So it really helped them out too in their daily routine.
Chris Maggard (17:12):
Awesome. Yeah, I recall there was, so Eric’s not too far from my home, and I just popped into a little visit and one of the things that really I think set the tone too is sitting down with the technicians and letting ’em know, like Eric mentioned before, they had buy-in in those inspection sheets. I don’t know if you remember that night, Eric, but I think it was pretty eyeopening for them to go, oh, well, I don’t like this. Okay, that’s great. Let’s fix that. And having some feedback, because it tends to be when your technicians feel they have buy-in within their inspection sheets, they feel they’ve built that, they’re more likely to want to use it, and I think that just helps with the usage and the buy-in just in general with them.
Eric Foyle (17:53):
Right. Yeah, I would agree because I actually created a little form that had basically the topic and then the recommended action, and I kind of made a little form, and so they each have a copy at their toolbox and when they, we’ve kind of got it all fine tuned now, we don’t have to do it so often, but we used to do that in the meeting once a month. They’d bring their form to the meeting if they had any changes, and then what we do, we get enough changes set up, we would schedule one of our meetings. This meeting’s going to be just together. We’re all going to sit down and all, I’m going to pull it up on the big screen and we’re going to make those changes together so that we’re all on the same page as to what that item is and why we’re changing it and what our choices are for the outcome of it. So we would do that together as a group for we’d buy lunch and all sit down and just edit the inspections.
Chris Maggard (18:42):
Eric, correct me if I’m wrong too, one time I believe you guys focused on quick wins. Did you focus on fuel injection recommendations?
Eric Foyle (18:52):
Yeah, we did try that once. We didn’t have very good success with it. I don’t know if it’s because of Mitchell and also I think our culture up here in our small town, some of those extra things like that are really hard sell. People don’t really tend to really want to go that way. It’s not a little bit different in the dealership environment and the bigger cities I feel. But we did try that, but we didn’t have very good success with that part of it.
Jon Belmonte (19:27):
Great. And how would you, again, question for both of you. So how would you describe the results from implementing AutoVitals? I mean, obviously there’s a ton of factors that have gone into that go into the success of the shock, but do you think about it in terms of a RO in terms of efficiency, profitability, revenue, I mean quality of life? I mean, what’s your success look like? Okay.
Eric Foyle (19:56):
Yeah. And before I answer that, so to go back to Chris’s question, I guess in a roundabout way, we did do some quick wins. I can tell you because we implemented an example. We test every battery on every inspection with an actual battery tester, and we photograph those results and we check every cabin filter and we photograph those cabin filters. So with those two items in particular, we probably sell more cabin filters and more batteries in any shop in town because we are checking and we’re showing the customer. Once the customer sees that Rat nest in the cabin filter, they’re not going to say not to do it. And once they see the battery results on the machine saying it failed and this is why it failed, they’re going to say, do it. So yeah, you can get some quick wins out of it. I mean, for us, we did try something different that we don’t normally do.
We were trying to do another one to track it, and when we tried the other one, that’s the one that really didn’t work out. But yes, we do get some quick wins. But to answer your question, Jon, so for me, obviously the A RO and the sales are, I feel, are kind of a byproduct of it’s what you get, it’s one of your benefits you get. But for us, it was mainly being organized and being consistent and what those inspections have done. And you can kind of see it in our reviews, our customers, they love them and it earns their trust and we’re really transparent. And so that’s the biggest benefit for me is the customers really trust us. They come to really appreciate and value that inspection that we’re not even charging it for. We’re including it in their service and they want it.
And that’s something the other shops in our town don’t offer. And so it automatically elevates us above the rest of the shops in town. So those are the benefits to me is earning that customer’s trust and maintaining that and staying organized to where we’re all basically on the same page. We’re all working off this particular vehicle’s inspection, and so it doesn’t matter who pulls it up, they can get up to speed real quick as to what the technician found. We’re not scrambling for a piece of paperwork. We’re not trying to read somebody’s notes that we can’t read. We’re not trying to make up anything. It’s right here in the photos and the videos of course, too. We try to do videos when we can. Those are really very impactful as well
Chris Maggard (22:12):
From, go ahead, Eric.
Eric Foyle (22:17):
You do all that, right? Your win or your payoff is your car count and your A RO and your retention. I mean, those numbers just grow automatically from doing this.
Chris Maggard (22:28):
And I could say that I worked with Eric for quite a while until just recently. Him and I worked pretty closely together. We would have meetings at least once a month, and our focus was on making sure we’re gauging the results, we’re tracking the KPIs, what does each department, let’s say their advisors or their technicians, where are they falling shy? What do they need to do in order to make the improvements? And he was looking at it from a business perspective and also the buy-in for the advisors or the technicians to help them hit their goals, what they needed to in order to drive that compensation, which was driving more value. And just to see the transformation from where he started to where they’re at now is pretty impressive. I mean, that’s one of the things that I love to do is I’m here because I like to see the shop succeed, and that’s my reward. And Eric and them, they’ve done a great job. It was really an awesome partnership, and working with him was great.
Jon Belmonte (23:29):
And Eric, would you say it’s a, it’s a differentiator and a value from AutoVitals, the fact that you have a dedicated customer success advisor who is committed to your account and with you and with the team, make sure that everything you need, is that sort of part of the success formula?
Eric Foyle (23:51):
Yeah, that’s an absolute must because in the very beginning, I didn’t have that when we first onboarded with you guys, it wasn’t structured that way. And so in the beginning, you need some help with the physical parts of using the program and implementing it. But once you get past that, you need those monthly or weekly check-ins, whatever you have set up with your advisor that, like you said, me and Chris worked together for so long that she begins to learn our business and how we’re functioning and where we’re at, and she can see the growth and give us ideas on how to do things differently and come up with some things to try and then how we can track it. And so having that experience on learning how to use the reports correctly, that’s what ties it all together. I mean, if you just have the program and yeah, they get you going, well, that’s not going to help you grow using the program. You need that insight from the company to help you grow and how to use those numbers to your advantage.
Jon Belmonte (24:56):
Yeah, we find, yeah, I mean, we hear that a lot. I think that’s one of the benefits. That’s one of the unique things about AutoVitals is that you do get that dedicated person. And I know way back when you had onboarded, we didn’t have dedicated onboarding and training, but now from day one actually started to say that you didn’t have, it wasn’t a thing then, but now everybody gets a dedicated trainer and onboarding person. We’ve had that for a while and it’s worked really great.
Eric Foyle (25:25):
It does work out because you build that rapport with that person, and like I said, you kind of know what’s going on and they know what’s going on with your situation.
Jon Belmonte (25:32):
Right. Well, and now the great news is that not only do a small number of our shops really get the benefit of Chris Maggart wisdom and awesomeness, but now that she has been promoted to the manager and the leader, the queen bee of the customer success advisor and trainers and whatnot, all shops get a sprinkle of that magic. So, which is great for the company and great for the entire industry. Thank you. Thank you.
Okay. Well, we’ve taken up a ton of your time. I really appreciate it. Eric Foyle, Sterling Automotive Repair, and Chris Maggart who is leading the charge over here from a customer success advisor and training standpoint. It’s been really, really insightful, really helpful, really excited to share this knowledge with other folks. And thanks again and again, we are just enablers, so we learn a ton from folks like you, and I’m excited that we get to record a little bit of this and then share it out with other folks who are interested in getting to the level of success that Sterling has and that you have. So thanks, Eric, really appreciate it.
Eric Foyle (26:49):
Alright. Yeah, thank you very much for the consideration. I appreciate it.

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